Longtime policy advocate appointed to East Portland seat in Oregon House
Andrea Valderrama will be the next voice representing East Portland in the state Legislature.
The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners unanimously appointed Valderrama to fill the empty seat for House District 47 during a board meeting on Tuesday, March 23.
"I am a hard-working, unapologetic advocate and I won't stop working until I get the job done," Valderrama said during the virtual meeting. (See editorial.)
She continued: "It is extremely important to me to listen to my community and believe them when they tell me we need someone who can hit the ground running in the Legislature — who knows how to lead with a trauma-informed lens through crisis and has demonstrated time and time again a willingness to fight for our community, and especially for Black, Indigenous and people of color."
Describing herself as a first-generation American and the daughter of day laborers, Valderrama touted her experience serving as the chair of the David Douglas School Board and as policy director for the ACLU of Oregon. She will be the first Peruvian American to serve in the Oregon Legislature, according to a news release.
The 31-year-old Democrat told the commissioners that issues of wealth and inequality weren't merely abstractions for her, explaining that her family had lost income during the pandemic, and had lived paycheck to paycheck while being a mother to her daughter.
"I know what it's like to push that stroller in the mud, to be concerned about the lack of lighting and other infrastructure here," she said. "My lived experience in poverty and my values of economic justice are so critical in this role and really important for me to prioritize in all decision making."
Valderrama won out among two other finalists for the job: Adrienne Enghouse, a nurse who recently sought another appointment to a state Senate seat; and former "anti-capitalist" Portland City Council candidate Robin Castro.
Valderrama also ran for an open seat on the Portland City Council in 2018.
House District 47 had been occupied by former state Rep. Diego Hernandez before he resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment in the halls of power in Salem. The district stretches east of Interstate 205 to Gresham city limits, covering much of the Mill Park, Hazelwood, Glenfair, Parkrose Heights and Russell neighborhoods.
Valderrama obtained a restraining order against Hernandez last year, saying the former lawmaker used drugs and alcohol and engaged in threatening behavior while they were living together, Willamette Week reported. The order later was dismissed. Hernandez then faced allegations of misconduct at the state Capitol, which he denied, but the scandal prompted him to resign from office in March rather than face a vote of expulsion from his colleagues.
Valderrama is set to be sworn into office next week.
She won high praise from those on the dais, including Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson, who previously served as the area's state representative.
Said Vega Pederson: "In the 15 years that I have lived in this district, I have witnessed one of these candidates consistently engage in the work of bettering the lives of House District 47 community members, and who has been a fighter for them already — and that's Andrea Valderrama."
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